Friday, June 27, 2014
White privilege in Columbia, MO asserts black people can't drink
I have to be honest about a few things. I’m new in town. Although from Columbia, MO, I’ve been away rousing controversy in Durham, North Carolina for close to 30 years. I don’t understand the political culture of COMO. I’m learning. Give me some time.
My naiveté related to the inner workings of local politics has kept me biting my lips tight before screaming loudly. There are certain things crawling on my skin like a mosquito taking profuse bites. Yes, my last nerve has been unsettled, and I’m past wanting to put my shoe where the sun don’t shine.
So, it’s time to scream.
I attended the most recent city council meeting in hope of finding reason to believe it’s not just my imagination. What I found left me even more perplexed than before I entered the plush room. Given I’m here for a season, I need more than an impressive décor to give me reason to believe we’re moving in the direction of a loving, diverse community.
What I heard was a bunch of hyperbole about COMO being a nice place to live, with first class parks, a diverse community that celebrates arts, and it being the talk of the state. Insert bull manure wherever you wish.
Open your eyes people.
COMO isn’t the only community seduced by the rhetoric of inclusion. All looks great when you’re standing on the throne of privilege, and control how diversity plays out. COMO is one of the least diverse cities I have ever seen. Diversity is not reflected in the way the news is dispersed, how power is shared, or in how public policy is administered.
Don’t get it twisted sister, COMO is a community controlled by white privilege.
This prologue is essential in understanding my position on the plan to ban alcohol at Douglass Park. When placed within the context of assumptions of power and privilege, it reflects how the voice of black people is minimized, controlled and relegated as no consequential.
It is assumed the complaints of blacks don’t matter in COMO. Just give it time, and it will all go away. It is understood that the black community’s lack of real political clout makes their voice insignificant when placed within the context of what white people think. The response to black critique is handled by the opinion of white, liberal condescension.
You can hear the air of supremacy in the way affairs are managed. The voice of arrogance rants, ‘they don’t know any better.’ We know what’s best for them, because we, well, we are white.
Saying that disturbs me because of the hard work I have done to undo racial tension. My approach has been to seek common ground when confronted with tension. The problem in COMO is the absence of common ground. Blacks are forced to accept the morsels handed them after an effort is made to be heard.
So, with that out of the way, let me speak to the specifics related to the ban of alcohol at Douglass Park. Ginny Chadwick, and all of her cohorts co-signing on the ban, is communicating a subtle message rooted in the assumption of white privilege. It is a painful assertion that she, and those riding on the wagon, can’t hear because of the conventions that rule her thoughts and actions.
Black people can’t drink. White people can, but not black people. Underage white people can, but grown blacks hanging out in a city park can’t. Local clubs make it easy for white students to drink, but that’s different in the mind of those who are white, privileged, and completely unfamiliar with the nuances of black culture.
Her position makes that claim. Sadly, she fails to understand how paternalistic her crusade comes across. It’s reminiscent of the goals of imperialism – to stampede into a territory, take control and teach the people how to live honorably.
White people can drink. Young white people can drink, but blacks can’t handle the consequences of their drinking. When black people do it, the result is a public health issue. The white liberals have to rescue black people from destroying themselves before it is too late.
Insert your favorite super hero.
So, forgive me for speaking. I’m sorry for divulging my feelings regarding COMO’s all-white city council and nearly all-white press. Forgive me for chastising COMO for failing to take diversity seriously, and for making assumptions rooted in all of that privilege. I haven’t been here long, but I have a long list of concerns that comes back to the same truth.
Black people aren’t welcome at the table. We’re simply asked to show up to watch white people eat.